Brian Mullins, CEO of Daqri, has been obsessed with augmented reality technology for many years. And now it has finally grown up.
We could see that at Augmented World Expo this week in Santa Clara, Calif., where all the major tech companies — Google, Intel, Qualcomm, Microsoft — and many others had augmented reality technology on display. The event drew more than 4,700 people, compared to 3,850 a year ago and just 200 about seven years ago. It also drew 212 companies, compared to 120 last year.
Daqri showed its smart AR helmet for bikers, a heads-up display for cars, and its own pair of smart glasses for enterprises. I met with Mullins there to talk about how far the tech has come and how far it may have to go.
We talked about the company’s smart helmet, its heads-up display for cars, and why it hired Seamus Blackley, co-creator of the Xbox, and acquired Blackley’s research lab to commercialize an interesting new 3D printing technology dubbed “software defined light.” Mullins is intrigued about what Apple might announce in AR and how the technology could fundamentally change how we interact with the real world.
“We spent a lot of time talking about what it could do, showing what it could do. Now, okay, how do we get it in everyone’s hands? How do we scale it?,” he said.
Here’s an edited transcript of our interview.
VB: You’ve watched the space develop for a long time and seen progress. How do you feel about the pace of change and how the tech is catching up with what everybody wants?
Mullins: It’s the seventh year I’ve come to the show. To see it grow up from a couple hundred people to today — all the main players, not just in AR, but in technology are represented. The discussion is going beyond “What could it do?” and “When will it be valuable?” to “We’ve proven that this helps workers learn faster, retain more, reduce costs. We can demonstrate the ROI. How are we going to deploy it at scale? How do we connect it to the IT organization?” Everything from device management software to creative workflows with products like CAD systems…how are these customers going to buy thousands of units? How do we fulfill that? All the questions an industry needs to address in order to turn the corner and ramp and address demand.
That’s the phase AR is in right now. We spent a lot of time talking about what it could do, showing what it could do. Now, okay, how do we get it in everyone’s hands? How do we scale it? Some of that is — we can’t expect enterprise customers to look at AR and say, “I’ll adapt my business to this.” We have to adapt the way we sell AR and make products to those enterprises, to what they need to deploy for their workforces.
It’s an exciting shift to see the conversations change, to see the players here. Our partnership with Dell — that’ll open us up to a large channel of…